Less than fifty years after the thirteen American colonies broke from Great Britain, the signed official parchment that declared independence already was becoming irreparably faded. In 1820, Secretary of State John Quincy Adams, with the approval of Congress, commissioned William J. Stone to engrave a facsimile—an exact copy— of the decisive document.
When Stone’s copperplate was finished in 1823, Congress ordered two hundred prints to be distributed to the three living Signers (including Adams and Jefferson); families of Signers; Lafayette; the President and Vice President; and other public officials and institutions. Approximately fifty copies are known to survive. Stone’s engraving is the best representation of the Declaration as the manuscript looked prior to its nearly complete deterioration.